From "Tomorrow Was Yesterday" to The Galactic Whirlpool
In 1966, a young David Gerrold proposed a two-part Star Trek
episode. Called "Tomorrow Was Yesterday," it was about the Enterprise
encountering a generation ship, the Voyager
. Over the centuries, as its pre-warp, slower than light engines propelled their ship across space, generations of the Voyager
's crew came to forget that they were inside a spaceship. Mutiny and social turmoil led to the crew's descendents dividing into two groups, one living around the control room in relative comfort and high tech conveniences, the other in the lower decks around engineering living in relative squalor. Neither could take full control of the ship and its course, assuming they still remembered how to use their technology, and neither side knew that their world was heading for destruction, caught in the pull of a star. When members of the Enterprise
crew boarded the Voyager
, the people aboard, not knowing there was a world outside their ship, believed that they were members of the opposite faction. Complications ensued before Kirk and the gang eventually saved the day. (Gerrold wrote about this story and a few other rejected Star Trek
pitches in his 1973 nonfiction book, "The Trouble With Tribbles".
If it sounds like a familiar storyline, it is. Not only had something along those lines been done a number of times in science fiction novels, including Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky
and Brian Aldiss's Non-Stop
), something vaguely similar actually made it to Star Trek
in the form of the episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." My own first exposure to the concept was probably the Dig Allen space adventure The Forgotten Star
by Joseph Greene, and the next would have been the Canadian TV series The Starlost
It was too big and expensive a story for television, Star Trek
producer Gene Coon decided, but he was impressed by Gerrold's imagination and let him pitch a few more story ideas. One of them was "The Trouble With Tribbles." And that was the end of "Tomorrow Was Yesterday." For a little while, anyway.
A few years later, Gerrold tried to write an original science fiction novel based on the unused story. However, as he wrote, he found that he was writing a very different story, one about the crew of a warship trying to track an enemy spaceship that might not even exist. No generation ships involved at all. The book was published in 1972 as Yesterday's Children
. In 1980, with a few additional chapters added to the end of the book, it was reprinted under the same title. About a decade later it was republished again as Starhunt
. By that time Gerrold was revisiting and revising the fictional universe of that book for a new series he called Star Wolf
In the meantime, though, something else had happened. Gerrold wrote a novel based on "Tomorrow Was Yesterday." This time, it was actually a Star Trek
novel, and it was published as part of Bantam's Star Trek
novel line in 1980.
The Galactic Whirlpool
was something of a landmark Star Trek
novel. It was the first original novel published by someone who had written for the TV series. It was certainly one of the best of the Bantam Star Trek
novels, and longer than the average Trek
novel then, too.
The story follows the plot as described above, with some relatively minor changes. Instead of being pulled by a star, the ship, now called the Wanderer
, is being drawn to a more spectacular fate: a galactic whirlpool composed of spinning black holes.
The length of the book comes not from a more involved plot, or more action, but from many little expository breaks. For example, the story explaining why James T. Kirk has a habit of muttering "Tiberius" under his breath. How impulse drive works. Technobabble, Starfleet procedures, areas of the Enterprise
, and more. In one of the book's longer chapters, the Enterprise
librarian, Specks, gives a long history of the Wanderer
: its beginning as an L5 colony, its political alienation from Earth, and ultimately its departure from the solar system as a generation ship. It's the sort of information that, in an episode, would have been provided by Spock. (Not that I have anything against the idea of a librarian aboard the Enterprise
. I'm a librarian myself.) These expository lumps and digressions help disguise the fact that, even when you're halfway through the book, not much has actually happened yet.
(Incidentally, the idea of the ship being an L5 colony turned into a generation ship is similar to certain events in the much more recent Star Trek
novel The Sundered
, but it's an idea that's come up a number of times in science fiction. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, at times it seemed like everyone in the SF world was riffing off of Gerard O'Neill's The High Frontier
, the nonfiction book that popularized the idea.)
The prose style is distinctive. There are short sentences for dramatic effect, lots of italics, and lots of exclamation points. At times it reads like a young adult novel. Characters are constantly quoting old sayings. There are a number of quotes from Gerrold's alter ego, Solomon Short, no relation to Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long. Some of the bits of exposition read very much like lectures.
Gerrold refers in passing to Arex and M'ress and also mentions an Admiral George La Forge. The real George La Forge was a Star Trek
fan; The Next Generation
's Geordi La Forge was also named after him. Kirk sends contact teams to the Wanderer
, in a bit of foreshadowing of The Next Generation
. Gerrold had made the point in his book The World of Star Trek
years earlier that it made no sense to constantly put a ship's captain, its least expendable person, in danger. He expanded on the point in The Galactic Whirlpool
reference in the book is the odd sound, "coeurl," made by holographic prowlers in the Wanderer
's corridors. Coeurl is the title beast in A.E. van Vogt's short story "Black Destroyer." That story, now generally available as part of the book Voyage of the Space Beagle
, features a starship whose multiracial crew explores space and has exciting adventures, decades before Star Trek
The story ends with Kirk saying, "Set a course for deep space station K-7. I could use a rest --" Do I really need to mention that this leads into "The Trouble With Tribbles"?